• Don’t withdraw military from region, Itsekiri leaders urge FG
By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
The Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide (IYC) yesterday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of having made up his mind on the Niger Delta crisis, insisting that his (Buhari’s) current handling of the issues in the region would further escalate the violence in the area.
Spokesman of the umbrella body of youths of Ijaw descent, Eric Omare, in an interview with THISDAY, argued that rather than see the Niger Delta problem as developmental, the president was treating it as a purely military issue.
According to the group, the launch of a fresh military operation termed ‘Exercise Eagle Eye’ in the creeks of the region and the refusal of President Buhari to set up a negotiating team were clear signs that the president was not prepared to tackle the lingering crisis.
IYC wondered why the federal government has continued the deployment of men and military hardware in the region, when it was obvious that the strategy has not worked in the past.
The group maintained that it was obvious that the federal government did not find it worthy to resolve the crisis once and for all, stressing that all the president needed to do was to dust all the reports gathered in the presidential villa.
Meanwhile, in an operation that ended at the weekend, the Nigerian Navy said it was testing 13 warships and appraising the combat-readiness of its Special Forces and platforms.
Officers of the Nigerian Army Amphibious Brigade, Nigerian Air Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft, Police and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) among others also participated in the event.
A total of 13 vessels, 80 in-shore patrol craft, two helicopters and two private maritime security vessels were deployed during the exercise also.
But Omare, a lawyer, said it was a contradiction that while the president said he was in search of peace, soldiers were constantly harassing innocent women and children in the creeks.
He urged the president to be open-minded while dealing with critical issues, maintaining that it was his fixed mindedness that led Nigeria to its current recession.
Meanwhile, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILOT), the Itsekiri apex socio-cultural group, yesterday urged the federal government to discountenance the demand by some Niger Delta leaders to withdraw the military from communities in the region.
It maintained that there was increasing need for protection of lives and property hence the need to step up security in the region contrary to calls in some quarters.
ILOT in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and made available to journalists in Warri, described the recent meeting between the Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and President Buhari as embarrassing and disgraceful.
In the letter signed by Pa J.O.S Ayomike, Chief Edward Ekpoko, Chief Florence Rewane, Prof. Nesin Omatseye and Mr. Sunny Mene, Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and members respectively, the Itsekiri body said it totally bought the cynism exhibited by a sister socio-cultural group, the Warri Study Group, which warned the federal government against suspected intent of those assembled in the PANDEF.
The body, which comprises Itsekiri elite and elder statesmen, decried the state of underdevelopment of the region and expressed that the desired development of the region would only be possible in a secure and peaceful atmosphere.
It charged the government to give more attention to the fiscal management of the resources devoted to some of the development instruments established to improve the lot of the region, like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and others.
ILOT tongue lashed PANDEF for reducing the serious issue of development of the region and bringing soccour to the people to what it described as Ijaw-oriented agenda and demanded the federal government to pay more attention to certain long-standing Itsekiri needs, which included the Ugborodo shoreline protection in Escravos, the commencement and completion of the Koko shoreline protection and the full operation of the Ogidigben EPZ.
“The federal government must be awake to its constitutional responsibility of protection of lives and properties. It is not negotiable and that is why we condemn the call by PANDEF for the withdrawal of the military from communities in the Niger Delta where the criminal vandalism is taking place.
“The presence of security force is to enforce law and order, to therefore ask for its withdrawal is an invitation to anarchy. Acts of criminality must be separated from genuine effort to develop the region. We maintain that unless the full force of law is brought on the criminals vandalizing oil & gas installations there will be no end to it.
“Apart from the damage to our economy, our environment today is in ruins due to the senseless and criminal activities of some misguided youth, aided and abetted by some elders and politicians. There must be peace before development can take place in any society. Therefore the issue of security must be addressed first by the federal government. Boko Haram is an instant case where vandals have to be dislodged,’’ the body said.
On the way to see the region developed, the group maintained that the problem was with the management of funds meant for development of the region, adding, “It has been mismanaged over the years with the agencies producing billionaires while the communities are impoverished and going into extinction.
“The problem with agencies is not necessarily lack of sufficient funds but management of same. The federal government should look into the management of these agencies and ensure that they are transparently run. There are still politicians and their cronies from the region hiding billions or trillions of naira meant for the development of the region in their gigantic houses,” it said in the letter.